Four Essential Power Tools

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Tools. They are what separate most of us from the animal kingdom. For a species that started off chipping rocks into spearheads, we’ve come a long way. Even post-Neanderthal era, building just about anything revolved around hand (not power) tools. As your manly elders are all too happy to remind you, even today, there are plenty of carpentry and construction projects that a hand tool is best suited for. But that’s not why you’re here. There are far more tasks in the course of a man’s life in which power tools put hand tools to shame (or, at least make them look slower than Congress passing a budget). Plus, power tools create noise, make dust, and embody our manly DIY-conquer-all spirit.

Here’s a list of four power tool essentials, along with some background, why you need them, and what to look for when you’re tool shopping.

Cordless Drill

Background / Why You Need It

A cordless drill is the most essential of essentials when it comes to power tools. Without it, you’ll be looking like an Amish carpenter as you hand-bore holes at a rate of one per hour. Nothing wrong with Amish carpenters by any means, but I’ll beat their suspenders off any day when it comes to drilling holes. With a solid cordless drill, you’ll be able to tackle most drilling tasks from small pilot holes to large holes to run electrical through, and driving fasteners from dainty screws to beefy lag bolts (although you might consider an impact driver if you’re doing much in the way of the latter). Let’s be clear: there’s no such thing as a modern handyman without a cordless drill.

What to Look For

The cordless drill market is filled with compact 12v tools. They’re light, high-tech, and strong for their size. But if you’re getting a cordless, make it count and get something beefier. There are few things less manly than having your drill whimper to a stop half-way through a piece of wood. An 18v is probably the sweet spot for good power-to-weight ratio, and it can handle most of what you task it with. Companies like DEWALT, Bosch, and Makita (among others) make solid 18v models that get the job done. Don’t cheap-out on your drill; it’s a tool you’ll rely on regularly, and you’ll thank yourself in five or ten years for spending a bit more for quality now. Most high-quality 18v models will set you back about $100-$200.

Reciprocating Saw

Background / Why You Need It

Destruction and demolition have been man’s work for eons. Few practical tools embody the raw destructive force of a reciprocating saw (known more commonly by the Milwaukee Tool brand name Sawzall).

The reciprocating saw will cut through most metal and wood like butter. I’ve even cut down trees with one in a pinch. If you’re remodeling, demolishing, or doing plumbing or electrical work, a reciprocating saw will get you through 2x material, pipes, etc. in no time. Just don’t cut through a wall without knowing what’s inside it; a severed live electrical or water line is no fun. Both electrical and water together is even worse.

What To Look For

Unlike the cordless drill, corded is recommended here. Sure there are some pretty beefy cordless versions, but if you have to have one, we think corded will serve you best. It never runs out of battery and most reputable brands and models have plenty of power. Some models have rotating handles which can be useful in certain cutting situations, but for most, it’s not a necessity. The venerable Milwaukee Sawzall and Porter Cable are our personal favorites. Expect to spend around $100 for a decent saw. Blades are also critically important. Get a good assortment so you can handle whatever manly jobs come your way.

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